A Mikveh is an in-ground ritual pool which can be a natural gathering of water (such as a spring, spring-fed river or the ocean),or an indoor mikveh constructed according to Jewish law. Immersing in the Mikveh is associated with rebirth and purification,and today is used for many traditional and innovative rituals.
Traditionally, it is used for immersion in conversion to Judaism, for married women after menstruation and childbirth, and by men according to various customs. Today, the use of the Mikveh has expanded, and many liberal Jews use the mikveh as a creative practice for healing, life passages and spiritual renewal. There are now beautiful contemporary community mikvehs such as Mayyim Hayyim in the Boston area or the unique outdoor hot spring Mikveh at Jackson Wellsprings in Ashland, Orgeon
YHWH, the Hope (literally Mikveh) of Israel! All that forsake You. . .have forsaken the fountain of living waters. Heal me, YHWH, and I shall be healed, save me and I shall be saved, for you are my praise. (Jeremiah 17:13-14)
Whether or not you observe the traditional Jewish mikveh practices, it can (also) be very meaningful and renewing to do your own mikveh, not from law, but as a creative ritual. You can go to a community mikveh, or immerse in a natural body of water or a swimming pool to prepare for Shabbat, a holiday, or life-cycle event. Although it is traditional to immerse in the nude, for a creative mikveh you may be in a situation where you have to wear a bathing suit. If doing a creative ritual, many people will not say a blessing, but may wish to say a verse or meditation. Allow yourself to immerse slowly and completely under water. Consider that we are all born from water, and immersion in water is symbolic of renewal and rebirth. Imagine yourself dissolving in the Divine Source and emerging energized and refreshed. Take your time and immerse as many times as you like, perhaps four times to represent renewal in the four worlds of the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
A Personal Mikveh
In preparation for a cross-country move and a new job, I did a creative mikveh ritual at the gorgeous Jackson Wellsprings outdoor Mikveh in Ashland, Oregon, guided by wise woman and Maggidah (storyteller) Devorah Zaslow. She used guided imagery to lead me in three sets of dips: to let go of the past, welcome the future, and embrace the present moment. The setting was incredibly lush: butterflies, hummingbirds and giant orange dragonflies flitted about, while bubbles drifted up from the natural spring below. I emerged feeling lighter, younger, transformed.
–Rabbi Julie Hilton Danan
Consider and Comment: Have you ever done a mikveh for a personal transition?
Featured Image and photo: Natural outdoor warm mineral springs Mikveh at Jackson WellSprings in Ashland, Oregon (Photo by JHD)